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July 2005

Market Flair

Munich’s former trading hub has been given a new lease of life

It’s set to be Munich’s newest attraction: the Schrannenhalle—a center for retail, dining and entertainment. But behind the shiny new exterior lies a history dating back to the middle of the 19th century, when the same building was a hub of activity, as Munich’s grain market.

The original hall was constructed in 1851, when the city’s master builder Karl Muffat was given the job of designing a new grain market to replace the existing open-air market on Marienplatz, which at the time was called Schrannenplatz. The word Schranne is a southern German term for a “grain market,” originating from Schranke, which denotes a counter over which goods are sold. Due to a population explosion in the first half of the century, the open-air market was no longer big enough to meet the needs of the city.

Although the new Schrannenhalle is architecturally impressive, it has nothing on its predecessor. The original 430-m-long construction was completed in just two years and was one of the first buildings in the world to be made from iron and glass. Indeed, it was some 30 years later that Gustave Eiffel followed Muffat’s lead, constructing his famous iron tower in Paris.

Once the Schrannenhalle was opened between Blumenstrasse and the Viktualienmarkt, it was agreed to rename Schrannenplatz. The name Marienplatz was chosen in 1854 to honor the guardian angel Maria, who was thought to have protected citizens from a cholera epidemic the previous year.

Despite the market’s prestige, it thrived as a city market only for around 20 years. With the growth of the railways and increased use of trains to transport goods, it became ever more difficult to reach the Schrannenhalle, which was a good distance from the train station. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before the city-center market came up against competition, with the opening of the Grossmarkthalle in Schäftlarnstrasse. Although the Schrannenhalle was used for occasional fairs and exhibitions, it was not long before it went into serious decline. And, in 1914, the hall was gradually deconstructed. The majority of the iron parts were taken to a storage building at Munich Gasworks on Dachauerstrasse. What remained of the Schrannenhalle at the Viktualienmarkt was destroyed by fire in 1932, with the exception of what was known as the “Freibank.”

The site was used as a parking lot for many years, but in 1978 the architect and historian Volker Hutsch found a piece of the dismantled building at the gasworks. This 110-m-long and 25-m-wide iron sheet was analyzed at Munich’s Technical University, whose experts agreed that it would be feasible to rebuild the hall. In March 2003, the reconstruction of the Schrannenhalle began as a result of a partnership between the City of Munich and the private sector.

It was no easy task, however, to combine elements of a 19th-century structure with building techniques of the 21st century. Indeed, the reconstruction has taken the same length of time as it took to build the original some 150 years earlier.

So what can we expect from the new Schrannenhalle? As well as retaining its original identity as a marketplace—expect to find silversmiths, bookbinders, basketmakers, glassblowers and other traditional artists at work, crafting wares for sale—the venue is also being promoted as a gourmet paradise, with a number of bars, cafés and restaurants. Perhaps one of the most talked-about is “Der Pschorr,” which will open on the site of the original “Freibank” under head chef Peter Lamy, who has worked in kitchens across Munich, including Mövenpick restaurant.

Food and drink aside, there will also be a wide variety of culture on offer at the new-look Schrannenhalle. Readings, concerts, improvisation, comedy and craft fairs are just a number of events planned. Organizers have also arranged a series of children’s programs, including book workshops, where youngsters will be able to write and make their own books. For full details of upcoming cultural events, keep your eye on the Schrannenhalle’s Website:

The Schrannenhalle is due to open on August 29. Shortly afterwards, on September 8, Munich Mayor Christian Ude will officially inaugurate the building. This will be followed by a week-long Schrannenhalle festival, packed with special events. Check out the September issue of Munich Found for more details.
Schrannenhalle, Viktualienmarkt 15, Tel. 518 18 18.

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